BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -- New Argentine President Fernando de la
Rua, who is two months into his job, secured the support of the opposition
Peronist Party's most powerful figure Thursday -- the governor of vast
Buenos Aires Province.
De la Rua said Gov. Carlos Ruckauf, whose province the size of Italy is
home to about a third of Argentina's 36 million people, would back his
Alliance government's proposals "as long as it considers them sensible."
As leader of the biggest and richest province, Ruckauf is the second most
powerful politician in the land, making him the most important official from
the Peronist Party. Peronism still boasts the biggest membership despite
losing last October's elections.
Buenos Aires Province is a traditional Peronist stronghold, and Ruckauf's
victory there in October's voting had cast some doubts on the Alliance's
capacity to govern effectively.
Ruckauf's cooperation will be key for De la Rua's minority coalition
government of centrist Radicals and the center-left Frepaso, which took
over last December after a decade of rule by Carlos Menem, still titular head
of the Peronist Party.
De la Rua, formerly mayor of Buenos Aires city -- which is surrounded by
the province of the same name -- is seeking support of key governors from
the Alliance and Peronism alike for his efforts to bring Argentina's spending
He is also trying to forge a common strategy against a rise in violent
especially in Ruckauf's province.
On Wednesday, the central government agreed to give four cash-strapped
provinces -- two of them, Tucuman and Tierra del Fuego, Peronist-ruled
and the other two, Rio Negro and Catamarca, run by the Alliance -- $550
million in loans.
In exchange, it wants cuts in provincial budget deficits that it has promised
the International Monetary Fund as part of a major new $7.4 billion funding
deal for Argentina.
But De la Rua and Ruckauf took great pains to avoid being portrayed as
political allies from opposing parties.
"There is no pact. We came here to work," said De la Rua on a high-profile
visit to Ruckauf's headquarters in La Plata, the provincial capital.
"Ruckauf supports the central government's ideas as long as he considers
them sensible, such as in fighting problems like unemployment, tax evasion,
corruption, smuggling and drug trafficking," said De la Rua.
"My government's cooperation is not founded on friendship or party political
reasons, but on our conviction that if you do well, then the Argentine people
will benefit," Ruckauf said to the president at the news conference.
"Honesty, transparency and efficiency are our common calling," said the
governor, who was Menem's vice-president until last year but grew distant
from the Peronist leader.
The Alliance won power by promising an austere and honest alternative to
the corruption scandals, endemic tax evasion and flamboyance of the
Menem years. But it has kept in place most of Menem's successful
free-market economic policies.
Copyright 2000 Reuters.